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Margate

Investigating new uses for the Dreamland Cinema as a Heritage Amusement Park.

The distinctive Dreamland Cinema provides a sea-front frontage for the site

The distinctive Dreamland Cinema provides a sea-front frontage for the site. Copyright Gareth Gardner

With a history that embraces the art of JMW Turner and Tracey Emin, not to mention the popular culture of mods and rockers, Margate has plenty to shout about. And that’s before you take into account the glorious beach and picturesque Georgian terraces of one of England’s very first seaside resorts.

Located on the Kent coast, it suffers from high levels of deprivation, thanks to its remoteness from London and the rise of overseas holidays. Most symbolic of this decline is the Dreamland amusement park - and attendant Art Deco cinema - which traces its history back to the early 20th century. Dreamland closed several years ago, and its historic Scenic Railway wooden rollercoaster partly burnt down in 2008.

Much of Margate’s regeneration efforts have a cultural flavour, including construction of Turner Contemporary on the harbourside and establishment of a creative community in the Old Town. They now look set to be joined by a revamped Dreamland site, where the emphasis will be much more on popular culture.

The Sea Change programme has been instrumental in funding an extensive feasibility study into proposals for the Dreamland site. Plans include creating the world’s first heritage amusement park, as well as converting the cinema into a multi-use venue and visitor attraction.

Find out more about the resort background, regeneration context, project description and delivery.

What we love about this project

  • the project shows that culture-led regeneration can be about ‘popular’ seaside heritage, film and youth culture
  • recognising that sometimes change takes time. A pragmatic longer term approach, including using a Sea Change feasibility grant to explore options, and a planned two stage implementation of regeneration plans
  • the project forms part of a much broader creative strategy for the town
  • highlights the crucial role that campaigning groups can play in shaping plans
  • consultation involved an innovative event that was also a celebratory party of Dreamland’s heritage

What people are saying

“Sea Change has been absolutely instrumental in getting us to where we are now.”
Derek Harding, Programme Director, Margate Renewal Partnership

“Sea Change has delivered the experts we could never have attracted otherwise. We could never get our funding bids together without all this feasibility work.”
Sarah Vickery, Treasurer, The Dreamland Trust